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Canon PowerShot SD100 Digital ELPH Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
09/16/03
User Level
Novice to Advanced
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Automatic Exposure Control
Picture Quality
Good, 3.2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7, 8x10 inches
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$399

Introduction

Canon Powershot SD100
Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion

Ask a photographer, either professional or amateur, to name the first couple of camera manufacturers they can think of, and chances are one would be Canon. Canon digital cameras carry on the history of innovation, with a broad line of products ranging from entry-level models all the way to no-holds-barred digital SLRs for professional photographers. In the consumer arena, their products are distinguished by superb design, sharp lenses, and excellent color.

In both the film and digital worlds, the high-style, diminutive Canon ELPH models have been wildly popular. Long a popular brand for APS film cameras, the Canon Digital ELPHs brought the compact size and styling to the digital world with the original S100. The Canon Powershot SD100 Digital ELPH updates the line by adopting the SD memory card format, while offering the same great features and point-and-shoot simplicity that have made the ELPH series so popular with a wide range of consumers.

Camera Overview
Slightly smaller than many preceding Canon Digital ELPH models, the Powershot SD100 features the same great looks and sharp design are the ELPH signature. Very compact and quick on the draw (thanks to a smooth retractable lens design), the Powershot SD100 is a convenient point-and-shoot digital camera with a handful of extra exposure features for a little added flexibility. With the lens retracted, the Canon SD100's front panel is flat and pocket friendly, and its all-metal body rugged and durable. Equipped with a 3.2-megapixel CCD, the SD100 captures high quality images, suitable for printing snapshots as large as 8x10 inches. Smaller image sizes are also available for email transmission or Web applications, and a movie mode captures short video clips with sound.

The Canon SD100 features a 2x, 5.4-10.8mm zoom lens, equivalent to a 35-70mm zoom on a 35mm camera (a fairly common 2x zoom range). Aperture is automatically controlled, but the maximum setting ranges from f/2.8 at full wide angle to f/3.9 at full telephoto. A maximum 3.2x digital zoom option increases the SD100's zoom capability to 6.4x, but keep in mind that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, as it simply crops out and enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. Image details are thus likely to be softer with digital zoom. Focus ranges from 1.5 feet (47 centimeters) to infinity in normal AF mode, and from 3.9 inches to 1.5 feet (10 to 47 centimeters) in Macro mode. An Infinity fixed-focus mode is also available. The SD100 employs a sophisticated, nine-point AiAF (Artificial Intelligence Autofocus) system to determine focus, which uses a broad active area in the center of the image to calculate the focal distance (a feature I've been impressed with on many ELPH models and hope to see continued). Through the Record menu, you can turn AiAF off, which defaults the autofocus to the center of the frame. Also built-in to the SD100 is an AF assist light, which aids the focus mechanism in low light. For composing images, the SD100 offers a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD reports a fair amount of camera information, but excludes exposure information such as aperture and shutter speed. In Playback mode, a histogram display reports the tonal distribution of a captured image, useful in determining any over- or under-exposure.

Because the ELPH line capitalizes on ease of use, exposure control is typically automatic to increase the line's appeal to point-and-shoot users. The SD100 doesn't waver from this trend, but does provide a handful of manual adjustments. The Mode dial on the rear panel controls the main operating mode, offering Playback, Auto, Manual, and Movie modes. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds, with the one- to 15-second end of the range only available in Long Shutter mode (which also automatically invokes a Noise Reduction system to eliminate excess image noise in longer exposures). In straight Auto mode, the camera controls everything about the exposure except for file size, flash, etc. Manual mode provides more hands-on control, with White Balance, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and some creative effects. Camera operation is straightforward, as you typically just point and shoot most of the time. Pressing the Shutter button halfway sets focus and exposure, and the small LEDs next to the optical viewfinder let you know when the camera is ready to take the picture.

The SD100 uses an Evaluative metering system by default, which means that the camera divides the image area into zones and evaluates each zone to determine the best overall exposure. A Spot metering option ties the exposure to the very center of the frame, and is useful for off-center or high contrast subjects, letting you pinpoint the exact area of the frame to base the exposure on. There's also a Center-Weighted metering option, which bases the exposure on a large area in the center of the frame. Exposure Compensation increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. A White Balance option offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual) settings. The SD100 also offers a creative Photo Effects menu, which adjusts sharpening, color, and saturation. Sensitivity equivalents include 50, 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings, as well as an Auto adjustment. The SD100's built-in flash operates in Auto, Forced On, Suppressed, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Synchro modes. You can also lock the flash exposure in the same way you can lock normal exposure. Pressing the Shutter button halfway and keeping it pressed initiates the exposure lock, signaled by two beeps and activating an "FEL" icon in the LCD monitor until the Shutter button is released or fully pressed.

A two- or 10-second self-timer option counts down by flashing a small LED on the front of the camera before firing the shutter, giving you time to duck around the camera and get into your own shots. Stitch-Assist mode is the SD100's panoramic shooting mode, which lets you shoot as many as 26 consecutive images. The series of images can then be "stitched" together into a single panoramic frame with the accompanying software. The SD100 also has a Movie Record mode, which records moving images with sound for as long as three minutes per clip, depending on the resolution setting and amount of memory card space. (Movies are recorded at either 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels.) Finally, a Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of consecutive images (much like a motor drive on a traditional camera), at approximately 2.2 frames per second, for as long as the Shutter button is held down. The actual frame rate varies with the resolution setting, with the total number of images also depending on the amount of memory card space and file size.

The My Camera settings menu lets you customize camera settings to a specific theme. Everything from the startup image to operating sounds can be assigned to a theme, either one of the pre-programmed themes or one downloaded from the camera software or stored on the memory card. The SD100 also lets you record short sound clips to accompany captured images, via the Sound Memo option, great for lively captions to vacation photos or party shots.

The SD100 stores images on SD memory cards (hence, the "SD" in its name). A 16MB card accompanies the camera, but I recommend picking up a larger capacity card, at least 64 megabytes, so you don't miss any shots. The camera utilizes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, which accompanies the camera, along with the necessary battery charger. Because the SD100 does not accommodate AA-type batteries in any form, I strongly advise picking up an additional battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, and actually uses a "dummy" battery that inserts into the camera's battery compartment. A USB cable and interface software are also packaged with the camera, for downloading images to a computer and performing minor organization and corrections. Two software CDs provide the necessary drivers and editing software, both compatible with Windows and Macintosh platforms. One CD holds Canon's Digital Camera Solution Disk version 12.0 and the other features ArcSoft's Camera Suite version 1.2. Finally, an A/V cable connects the SD100 to a television set, for reviewing and composing images. The SD100 is Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) compatible, with detailed print settings in the Playback menu. Canon offers a selection of direct-connect printers as well, which simplifies printing even more.

Basic Features

  • 3.2-megapixel CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
  • 2x, 5.4-10.8mm lens, equivalent to a 35-70mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum 3.2x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control, with Long Shutter mode for longer exposures.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,500 to 15 seconds.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/3.9, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash with five modes.
  • SD memory card storage, 16MB card included.
  • Power supplied by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (charger included) or optional AC adapter.
  • ArcSoft Camera Suite 1.2, Canon Digital Camera software, and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with sound.
  • Continuous Shooting modes.
  • Stitch-Assist panorama mode.
  • Infinity and Macro focus modes.
  • Customizable "My Camera" settings.
  • Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Sound Memo option for recording captions.
  • Spot, Center-Weighted, and Evaluative exposure metering.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes, including a Custom setting.
  • Photo Effect menu for color adjustment.
  • Adjustable ISO setting.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
  • A/V cable for connection to a television set.

 

Recommendation

The Canon ELPH series of digicams continues to be a popular option for many consumers, given its tiny size and reputation for great quality. The PowerShot SD100 Digital ELPH updates the line with SD memory card image storage, and sports a 3.2-megapixel CCD for high resolution images. Although exposure control is mainly automatic, the availability of exposures up to 15 seconds and adjustable ISO increases the camera's exposure versatility a great deal. Plus, the uncomplicated user interface makes novices and more advanced amateurs alike feel at home, with enough variable exposure control to make both happy.

 

Design

With the same sharp design and a slightly smaller size than preceding members of the ELPH line, the SD100 features the characteristic ELPH styling that has proved so popular among consumers. The compact size is perfect for quickly stashing in a pocket or purse without worrying about damaging the rugged, all-metal body. The retracting lens is a smart design that keeps the camera front completely flat when the camera is off, underscoring the camera's pocket friendly design, while an automatic lens cover means you don't have to worry about smudging the lens or losing a lens cap. Measuring 3.3 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches (85 x 56 x 24 millimeters), the SD100 should easily fit into the average shirt pocket. The camera weighs 5.8 ounces (165 grams) without battery or memory card.

Several distinctive ELPH features identify the front of the SD100, with the lens off-center slightly toward the right, and viewfinder and flash just above it. A light emitter, next to the optical viewfinder, serves multiple purposes, including autofocus assist, red-eye reduction, and the self-timer countdown. The camera's telescoping lens moves into place quickly when the camera is powered on, and retracts fully within the camera to maintain a flat profile. Just beneath the flash is the camera's tiny microphone. A small notch from the wrist strap eyelet is about all the finger-grip provided, although the accompanying wrist strap should provide a little more security.

The Shutter button, Zoom lever, and Power button are all on top of the camera, protruding slightly from the surface.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) the wrist strap attachment eyelet stands alone.

The opposite side of the camera simply holds the USB and A/V output jacks, protected by a snug rubber cover.

The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, along with the optical and LCD viewfinders. Lining the bottom edge of the LCD monitor are the Set, Menu, Display, and Function buttons, with a multi-functional Four-Way Arrow pad just to the right of these. A Mode dial in the top right corner accesses Playback, Auto, Manual, and Movie camera modes. Directly above the Four-Way Arrow pad is the camera's speaker. Two LED lamps next to the viewfinder report camera status, lighting to indicate when focus is set or the flash is fully charged.

The SD100 features a nice, flat bottom panel, which holds the metal tripod mount and the battery/memory card compartment. I don't usually like to see the tripod mount so far over to the side of the camera because the weight of the camera, placed off-center on the tripod head, can overly stress the mount threads. Given the SD100's tiny size and the solid metal tripod socket (kudos for that), this may not be a concern. One consequence of having the tripod socket so close to the edge though, is that the camera may not rest level on some tripod heads. (Again, a minor concern, since you can usually just tilt the tripod head to align the camera however you'd like.) Inside the compartment, the battery and SD memory card slots line up side by side. The locking compartment cover slides open and then outwards, with a small, rubber flap in its center. This flap covers a hole in the compartment cover that accesses the connector jack in the "dummy battery" used in the AC adapter kit. (Like many other Canon digicams, the SD100's AC adapter scheme employs a dummy battery that fits into the battery compartment, and which provides a plug for the AC power converter's cable.)

 

Camera Operation

The SD100's user interface is straightforward and relatively uncomplicated, with the same menu setup and basic control layout as the rest of the current ELPH series. Most of the camera's functions are controlled by buttons on the top and rear panels, while a handful of settings are controlled through the LCD-based Record menu. A Function menu provides faster access to basic settings like image size, quality, and exposure compensation, without the need to sift through menu screens. The LCD menu system itself is quite efficient, as you view menu items organized in tabs instead of through a series of pages. Additionally, the Setup and My Camera menus are always available, regardless of the camera mode. With the instruction manual in-hand, it shouldn't take more than a half an hour to an hour to get comfortable with the camera.

Record Mode Display: In any record mode, the LCD display shows either the image area with no information, the image with a limited information display, or no display at all. Pressing the Display button cycles through the available displays. When the information display is active, it reports resolution and image quality settings, the number of available images, Record mode, orientation, and a handful of exposure settings (although not aperture or shutter speed).


Playback Mode Display
: Playback mode also offers three display modes, including the image only, the image with information, and the image with expanded information and a histogram. You can also display as many as nine thumbnail images at a time on-screen with the index display mode, or zoom in on captured images to check fine details, focus, or framing.

External Controls


Shutter Button
: Located on the top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed. If the Self-Timer is activated, a full press of the Shutter button triggers the countdown.

Zoom Lever: Surrounding the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, the wide-angle end activates an index display, while the telephoto setting zooms in on captured images for closer inspection of fine details.


Power Button
: To the left of the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this button turns the camera on or off.


Mode Dial
: Tucked in the top right corner of the rear panel, this dial controls the camera's operating mode, offering the following selections:

  • Playback Mode: Replays captured images and movies, with options for image management and printing.
  • Automatic Exposure Mode: Places the camera in charge of all exposure decisions, with the exception of image size/quality, flash mode, macro focusing, and the Self-Timer.
  • Manual Exposure Mode: Provides more exposure control, such as Exposure Compensation and White Balance settings. The camera still determines the shutter speed and aperture settings however.
  • Movie Mode: Captures moving images with sound, with a maximum recording time of three minutes (depending on the resolution setting and available memory card space).


Four-Way Arrow Pad
: This four-way rocker button is adjacent to the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, and serves multiple functions. In any Settings menu, the arrow keys navigate through menu selections. In Record mode, the top arrow cycles through Evaluative, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering modes. The left arrow controls Macro and Infinity focus modes, and cycles back around to the normal AF mode. The right arrow accesses the camera's flash modes, cycling through Automatic, Forced On, Forced Off, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync settings. Finally, the down arrow key activates the Self-Timer and Continuous Shooting modes, or returns to the normal exposure mode.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images and movie files. When you zoom in on an image, all four arrows pan the view.


Function / Erase Button
: To the left of the arrow pad, this control activates the Function menu in any record mode. The following options are available:

  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.
  • Long Shutter: Accesses longer shutter times, from one to 15 seconds. (Only appears when enabled through the Record menu, and is accessed by pressing the Set button while the Exposure Compensation option is highlighted.)
  • White Balance: Controls the color balance of images. Options are Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, and Custom (manual setting).
  • ISO Speed: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Photo Effect: Enables Vivid Color (high color saturation), Neutral Color (low color saturation), Low Sharpening, Sepia, or Black-and-White picture effects.
  • Compression: Sets the JPEG compression to Superfine, Fine, or Normal.
  • Resolution: Specifies the image resolution. Still image resolutions are 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels. Movie resolutions are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels.

In Playback mode, this button calls up the single-image erase menu, which deletes the currently-displayed image (unless write-protected).


Display Button
: On the left side of the Function / Erase button, this button turns the LCD image and information displays on and off. In Playback mode, this button controls the information display only, and activates a histogram display of the captured image.


Menu Button
: Nestled between the Set and Display buttons, this button accesses the LCD menu system in both Record and Playback modes.


Set Button
: Directly beneath the lower left corner of the LCD display, this button confirms menu selections and changes. If Long Shutter mode has been enabled, pressing this button while the Exposure Compensation option of the Function menu is highlighted displays the Long Shutter setting.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Movie Mode: Records short movie clips with sound, at either 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels. The actual amount of recording time varies with the resolution setting and amount of memory card space, but the longest clip time is three minutes. A handful of exposure controls are available in this mode, although options like flash mode, Continuous Shooting, and digital zoom are disabled.

Manual Exposure Mode: Restricts the camera's control to shutter speed and aperture only, letting you adjust the digital zoom, flash mode, image quality, shooting method (Single, Continuous, or Self-Timer), Macro mode, Infinity Focus mode, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Photo Effect, Metering, and ISO.

Automatic Exposure Mode: Places the camera in charge of all exposure settings. You can select only the digital zoom option, certain flash modes, the self-timer, and Macro mode.

Playback Mode: This mode allows you to scroll through captured images and movies, write-protect images, view a nine-image index display, zoom into a captured image, delete unwanted images, rotate images, and set up images for printing on DPOF compatible devices.

Record Menu: Accessed by pressing the Menu button in Automatic, Manual, Stitch Assist, and Movie modes (some options are not available in all modes). Three menu tabs appear, one for Record, Setup, and My Camera sub-menus.

  • Record Menu
    • AiAF: Turns on the AiAF focus system. If switched off, the camera bases autofocus on the center of the frame.
    • Self-Timer: Sets the Self-Timer countdown to two or 10 seconds.
    • AF Assist Beam: Turns the AF assist light on or off. If on, the light automatically activates in low lighting.
    • Digital Zoom: Enables the digital zoom function, which is engaged by zooming past the optical zoom range. Also disables digital zoom.
    • Review: Turns the instant review function on or off, or sets the amount of time that the captured image is displayed on the screen from two or 10 seconds. (Still images only.)
    • Long Shutter: Activates Long Shutter mode, so that it appears in the Function menu.
    • Stitch Assist: Enables Stitch Assist mode (the SD100's panoramic shooting mode), and lets you choose a shooting direction (to the right or the left). After pressing the Set button to start the sequence and taking the first shot, blue gridlines appear in the LCD monitor to help you line up each subsequent shot. Exposure is locked for the sequence which ends when you press the Menu button. The final series of images can be stitched together as one image on a computer via the accompanying software.

  • Setup Menu
    • Beep: Designates whether a beep sound plays when the Shutter button is pressed.
    • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the LCD display.
    • Auto Power Down: Turns on the automatic shut down, which turns the camera off after a period of inactivity.
    • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal date and time settings.
    • Format: Formats the SD card, erasing all images (even write protected ones).
    • Shutter Volume: Controls the volume of the shutter noise.
    • Playback Volume: Adjusts the volume of playback sounds.
    • Startup Volume: Sets the volume for the camera's startup sounds.
    • Operation Volume: Controls the volume of operational sounds.
    • Self-Timer Volume: Adjusts the volume of the self-timer beep.
    • File No. Reset: Resets file numbering with each new SD card, if enabled. If disabled, the camera continues file numbering from card to card.
    • Auto Rotate: If enabled, rotates portrait-format images so they appear right-side up in the LCD monitor. (Note though, that this only affects image viewing on the camera's LCD display. The data in the image files themselves isn't rotated, so portrait-oriented images will still appear sidewise when viewed on a computer.)
    • Language: Changes the menu language to one of 12 languages.
    • Video System: Establishes the type of video signal, NTSC or PAL.

  • My Camera Menu
    • Theme: Selects a common theme for each My Camera menu settings item. Four options are available, the first one being Off. When a theme is selected, all of the following settings automatically adjust to that theme.
    • Start-Up Image: Sets the startup image when you turn on the camera to: Black screen, Canon logo, Canon logo with sunset, and nature scene. You can also apply your own image using the Canon software.
    • Start-Up Sound: Sets the startup sound when you turn on the camera to: No sound, Musical tone (1), Musical tone (2), or Birds chirping. You can also apply your own sounds using the Canon software.
    • Operation Sound: Sets the sound when any control or switch is use (except the Shutter button). Options include no sound, Beep, Musical tone, and Chirp.
    • Self-Timer Sound: Sets the sound that signals you when the shutter release is two seconds away. Options include no sound, Fast beeps, Telephone ring, and Howling.
    • Shutter Sound: Sets the shutter sound that you hear when you depress the Shutter button (there is no shutter sound in Movie mode). Options include no sound, Shutter sound, Musical Tone, and Bark.

Playback Menu: Accessed by pressing the Menu button in Playback mode, the Playback menu also has subject tabs for the Setup and My Camera menus described above.

  • Protect: Marks the current image for write-protection, or removes write-protection. Protected images cannot be deleted or manipulated, except through card formatting, which erases all files.
  • Rotate: Rotates the current image 90 degrees clockwise.
  • Sound Memo: Records a short sound clip to accompany a captured image.
  • Erase All: Erases all files on the memory card, except protected ones.
  • Slide Show: Automatically plays all captured images in a slide show.
  • Print Order: Determines how many copies of the current image will be printed, with options for creating an index print, imprinting the date and time, and imprinting the file number.
  • Transfer Order: Select images for downloading to your computer.

 

In the Box

Packaged with the PowerShot SD100 are the following items:

  • Wrist strap.
  • Video cable.
  • USB cable.
  • 16MB SD memory card.
  • NB-3L lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Battery charger.
  • ArcSoft and Canon Digital Camera Solution Disk software CDs.
  • Operating manual and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

User Reviews

 

Test Images
See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my standard test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy


Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the SD100's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the SD100's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

 

  • Color: Overall, the SD100 produced very good color throughout my testing, with generally accurate hue and appropriate saturation. Caucasian skin tones were a bit on the warm side, and some bright primary colors (bright reds and blues) were slightly oversaturated, but color was good overall. White balance was generally very good, although the auto setting had a hard time with the incandescent lighting of my "Indoor Portrait" test. The Incandescent and Manual settings did very well with that subject though, so I can give the SD100 high marks for its color overall.

  • Exposure: The SD100 handled my test lighting quite well, accurately exposing most shots. It underexposed the very high-key outdoor portrait shot slightly at the default setting, but a smaller than average amount of positive exposure compensation did the trick, capturing reasonably bright midtones while holding onto the highlight detail fairly well. Indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation, and the flash exposure was bright as well. The SD100 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target of the Davebox, and shadow detail was generally pretty good.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The SD100 performed fairly well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,050 lines, although you could perhaps argue for as high as 1,100 lines in the horizontal direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,200 lines.

  • Closeups: The SD100 turned in about an average performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.91 x 2.19 inches (74 x 55 millimeters). Resolution was very high, with strong detail in the coins, brooch, and dollar bill. Corner softness was present in this shot, but the effect wasn't terribly strong. Exposure looked good, though color balance was a hint cool. The SD100's flash throttled down pretty well for the macro area, though the brooch caused a hot reflection.

  • Night Shots: The SD100 did surprisingly well for a subcompact camera in the low light category. It has a "long shutter" mode, that permits exposures as long as 15 seconds, vs the 1 second limit in normal shooting mode. Combined with the autofocus-assist illuminator, this let the SD100 capture usable images down to the1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The SD100's optical viewfinder was somewhat tight, showing about 84 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing just about 100 percent frame accuracy. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the SD100's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in that regard. (I'd like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder though, even though 84% is fairly typical among the digicams I test.)

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the SD100 was somewhat better than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.6 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better still, as I found only two pixels of barrel distortion there. Chromatic aberration was also very low, showing only very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time
    As is the case with many subcompact digicams, the SD100 is on the slow side of average in most of its operations. Shutter lag in full autofocus mode ranges from 0.977 to 1.245 seconds, while cycle times run 3.3 seconds between shots in large/fine mode, and 2.3 seconds in small/basic. Prefocus shutter lag is very short though, at only 64 milliseconds (0.064 seconds), and continuous-mode cycle time is only 0.52 seconds for bursts of 6 frames.

  • Battery Life: Battery life with the SD100 is better than many subcompacts, at 98 minutes of runtime in its worst-case power drain mode (capture mode with the LCD on). While this is good, I still highly recommend purchasing a second battery at the same time as the SD100, so you can keep a fully-charged spare on hand during any extended outings.

 

Conclusion

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Good image quality and user-friendly design is synonymous with the ELPH name, and the reason why the line is so popular with a wide range of consumers. Extending the brand name's excellent reputation in the film world, members of the digital ELPH series have always impressed me with their quality and versatility. The SD100's tiny size is a definite plus, and the range of features gives the camera an edge over many other point-and-shoot digicams in the marketplace. Although actual exposure control remains automatic, the ability to adjust ISO, White Balance, and access longer shutter times increases the camera's shooting range. The high-resolution, 3.2-megapixel CCD produces great image quality and good color, and the SD memory card format helps keep the camera compact. Given the performance of previous ELPH models, I think the SD100 will find many a happy home.

 

Related Links

More Information on this camera from Megapixel.net:
Canon PowerShot SD100, Canon Digital Cameras, Digital Cameras


 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Canon PowerShot SD100 Digital ELPH, or add comments of your own!


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